Umay Theater, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Taipei
Programme A – What do the Young Think? (年輕人想 怎 樣)
Programme B – About Relation (踹共! 誰與共?)
March 21, 2020
Highlight of Programme A, What do the Young Think? (年輕人想 怎 樣), at Sun-Shier Dance Theatre’s (三十舞蹈劇場) CoDance festival (相遇舞蹈節) was the 30-minute Awakening to……and Endlessly Endless (我們清醒，於是反抗世界的無窮反覆) by Chang Ko-yang (張可揚).
It opens with a river of newspaper stretching from the front of the stage to the back wall; a road of sorts. On that wall, a projection of a door comes and goes. The sense is that it’s a portal into another world. The dancers approach but are continually repelled by an unseen force. The programme notes reference Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again; and just like him, they keep pushing, never admitting defeat.
But as they lyrics of a song on the soundtrack go, “There are ways of getting there,” and they do eventually they do get through, after which some excellent graphics give a sense of travelling down a never-ending corridor. Endlessly endless, as the title says. Pulled and buffeted, they fall. It’s like they’ve entered another dimension.
One section sees one dancer behind another, only the hidden person’s hands visible. We hear speech, but whose is it. it doesn’t seem to be hers. It doesn’t make sense. It’s strange, slightly absurd, and yet we search for meaning. I rather liked the idea, even though I’m still looking.
I was also taken by the way live film of the audience is projected on the back wall near the end of the piece; sort of us watching us watching them. Unfortunately, the light from the camera was blinding; and the cameraman and his wheeled tripod got seriously in the way of watching, at least from the lower seats.
The programme opened with Imprisoned (囚) created and performed by Chang Kuo-wei (張國韋). In a face mask and white protective suit, he inhabits a room delineated by poles. Trapped, he reaches out It was impossible to avoid thinking of the position many people find themselves these days. While full of solid ideas, the 15-minute or so piece struggles for clarity. The meaning of the avalanche of juggling balls is vague. Chang’s one-arm balances may be impressive but the snatches of hip-hop also sit uncomfortably within the rest of the movement vocabulary.
Around the same length, the ideas in another solo, Dear Frustration II by Chien Ying-hsuan (簡莹萱), are more solidly based. Premiered at a dance platform in Lisbon in 2017, it’s about not giving up, whatever. And there’s a lot of ‘whatever’, especially in a blood-spattered opening that sees smartly dressed dancer Peng Yi-zhen (彭乙臻) fall to the floor in a hail of gunfire. There’s more of the same at the end,and still she will not be cowed. In between, the cleverest moment comes in a sequence that makes it look like she’s moving forwards, although actually going in reverse. We’ve all been there!
Most impressive of Programme B, series About Relation (踹共! 誰與共?) was the middle work, Crossroads (阡陌), a duet for Chiang Ya-lun (江亞倫) and Fang Chun-wei (方駿圍) by Su Chia-hsien (蘇家賢).
Deliciously lit, it’s dark, moody and shadowy. With him in black shirt and trousers, her in a black dress, the couple dance around, in and on a three-metre tall open-sided black box. It’s used in just about every way imaginable: on end like a cupboard, open like a bath, upturned. It’s like watching a flowing relationship but often one with a bit of an edge to it. As the dance shifts between playful and thoughtful, there is often a feeling they are distant in many ways, even though physically close. A relationship that has indeed reached a crossroads, perhaps. The sometimes fast-moving partnering was always very clean. It ends perfectly, and one senses unresolved, with them just sitting. Crossroads really is beautifully constructed and was beautifully danced. I could easily see it being extended successfully to 30 or 40 minutes.
The opening Face to Face (相你相我), created by Wu Yi-san (吳易珊) and performers Chen Ying-ci (陳映慈) and Hsu Cheng-wei (許程崴) is an impressive piece of physical theatre. Rather amusing at times, the interplay between the couple was outstanding, especially in those scenes where they switch the single mic. It is text heavy as they throw and catch each other’s lines, but there are moments when they show they can dance too.
Finally, The Invincible Swiftness of Golden Crow (紅頭裡的金烏雲薦) by Lin Ting-syu (林廷緒) is a coming together of religious imagery and contemporary dance. It takes inspiration from the shapes and different types of idols that people worship in Taiwanese temples, although the choreography and movement quality of dancer Wen Yun-chu (文韻筑), especially the spider-like shifting across the floor, suggested more some sort of arachnid to me. The dance is loaded with intricate detail, hand gestures in particular as she transforms to the golden crow of the title, a holy bird that could travel magically.